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NEWS UPDATES 27 June 2009

Philippines urges overseas workers to respect local culture

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The Philippines’ huge labor diaspora should heed other countries’ cultural sensitivities after Saudi Arabia arrested 67 cross-dressing Filipino male workers, a senior presidential aide was quoted by AFP as saying Friday.

“When they enter their host country, they should know the culture of their host country,” said Silvestre Bello 3rd, Cabinet secretary and a top aide to President Gloria Arroyo.

Bello was speaking to reporters after learning of the arrests of the 67 Filipinos at a private party and drag show in a villa near Riyadh earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia, which follows strict Islamic law, is a temporary home to about a million of the nearly nine-million strong Filipino work force abroad.

Bello said some Filipinos, brought up in a culturally liberal western-oriented democracy, “sometimes can’t avoid the individual urge or expression of what they feel.”

Manila is providing legal assistance to the 67, he added.

The US-based Human Rights Watch called on Saudi authorities on Wednesday to drop charges against the Filipinos, who face possible lashes and jail for both cross-dressing charges and violating Saudi Arabia’s strict ban on alcohol, according to Philippines Embassy vice consul Roussel Reyes.


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